Microsoft joins rivals, bars police use of face recognition tech


Richard Grenell, who served as the USA ambassador to Germany for two years prior to his three-month stint as acting DNI from February to May, was referring to Microsoft's decision to join a growing list of tech companies that have pledged not to sell police departments facial recognition software until there are federal laws in place to regulate its use.

In point of fact, the Microsoft announcement was brought into light a day after its arch-rival Inc. had stalled police use of its "Rekognition" software for a year, while the IBM (International Business Machines Corp.) had also told that the American tech tycoon would no longer offer its software and technologies that could be used to support racial injustice.

Microsoft and Amazon have previously called on Congress to regulate facial recognition.

There is, of course, a qualification: Microsoft will not sell facial recognition tech to police until Congress passes regulations around use of the technology to protect human rights.

"They [MS] should be excluded from federal government contracts".

While America is witnessing mass protests in all of the states against racism after the death of George Floyd, facial recognition technology has been notorious for its bias against people with dark-colored skin.

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Microsoft's announcement that it will condition the sale of facial recognition technology to USA police departments based on human rights got a reaction from the Trump administration.

"They should now be barred from federal government contracts - there should be consequences for not selling technology to police departments", Grenell tweeted while tagging the US President. IBM took a stricter stance and completely pulled out of general goal facial recognition software. Amazon previously chose to ban police use of its facial recognition technology for a year.

He added, "We need Congress to act, not just tech companies alone". "Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM have finally started to take action".

It was the week that big tech slammed the brakes on development of facial recognition systems. Ongoing protests following the death of George Floyd have focused attention on racial injustice in the US and how police use technology to track people.

But if all the responsible companies in the country cede this market to those that are not prepared to take a stand, we won't necessarily serve the national interest or the lives of the black and African American people of this nation well.